With Bill Frist planning to bring Priscilla Owen’s nomination to the Senate floor this morning, this Post piece offers a good reminder of why Trent Lott dubbed it “the nuclear option”:

Republicans hold 55 of the seats in the chamber, and until now they have needed 60 votes to end debate and force a vote. But Republicans believe they have figured out how to use the chamber’s rules so that only a simple majority — 51 votes — is required to force an up-or-down vote. To get there, Republicans will have to evade a requirement that they have a two-thirds vote — 67 of 100 senators — to change the chamber’s rules. Republicans will argue that they are attempting to set a precedent, not change the Senate rules, to disallow the use of filibusters as a delaying tactic on judicial nominations. And by doing so, they say, they are returning to a more traditional concept of majority rule…

A report last month by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service asserted that “the point of a ‘nuclear’ or ‘constitutional’ option is to achieve changes in Senate procedure by using means that lie outside the Senate’s normal rules of procedure.” Also, some Democrats have advanced evidence that the GOP gambit lacks support from the Senate parliamentarian, the official who typically rules on what is allowable under the chamber’s rules and precedents. Reid told reporters last month that the parliamentarian, Alan S. Frumin, had told him that he opposed the Republicans’ plan and that “if they do this, they will have to overrule him.” Frumin, who was appointed by Republican leaders in 2001, has not been granting interviews. But a senior Republican Senate aide confirmed that Frist does not plan to consult Frumin at the time the nuclear option is deployed. “He has nothing to do with this,” the aide said. “He’s a staffer, and we don’t have to ask his opinion.”

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